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  • What Is Iridocorneal Endothelial Syndrome (ICE)?

    Reviewed By James M Huffman, MD
    Published Dec. 08, 2023

    Iridocorneal endothelial syndrome (ICE) is a rare eye condition. The three main features of ICE include:

    ICE is a group of conditions related to changes in corneal cells and the iris. The syndrome almost always involves cells moving from the cornea to the iris. Loss of cells from the cornea can cause corneal swelling, and the iris and pupil can become distorted. When the corneal cells move, they can block fluid from draining properly through the eye’s microscopic drainage channels. This blockage causes pressure in the eye to build, leading to glaucoma.

    Who is at Risk for ICE?

    Women get ICE more often than men. The syndrome is usually diagnosed in midlife. Typically, ICE affects only one eye.

    Causes of ICE

    The causes of ICE are not fully known. Some ophthalmologists believe a virus, like herpes simplex, may trigger it. The virus then causes the cornea to swell.

    ICE Symptoms

    People with ICE may have pain or blurry vision in one eye or notice changes in the iris or pupil.

    How Is ICE Diagnosed?

    An ophthalmologist will perform a complete eye exam and some other tests to diagnose ICE.

    The exam will usually show:

    How Is ICE Treated?

    There is no way to stop the progression of ICE. Treatment is usually focused on managing the glaucoma. Glaucoma treatment involves medication or possibly surgery. This helps reduce pressure in the eye.

    Your ophthalmologist might prescribe medication to help reduce corneal swelling. In some cases, a cornea transplant may be necessary.